Hack My Baby
May 20, 2008 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Give me your baby hacks! My wife and I are expecting our first child in November. What tips and tricks can you offer us to make our lives a lot easier? For example, a friend of mine swears that putting a crying baby in front of a mirror will cause it to stop. Another uses noise cancelling headphones to temper the noise from his shrieking child. I am looking for hacks on everything from diaper changing to stroller modifications. Make our lives easier as we enter into parenthood.
posted by jasondigitized to Human Relations (45 answers total) 119 users marked this as a favorite
a friend of mine swears that putting a crying baby in front of a mirror will cause it to stop

That might make his baby stop crying, but I don't think it is a universal fix. Putting my baby's feet under some cool running water from the sink often stopped her from crying.
posted by mikepop at 9:21 AM on May 20, 2008

I assume that you already know about parenthacks.com?
posted by procrastination at 9:21 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't have a baby of my own to try this, but apparently the sound of slurping water can make a baby stop crying.

Or maybe that only works on Japanese babies?
posted by juicedigital at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Congratulations, and become one with swaddling, it has worked miracles with nieces, nephews.
posted by iamabot at 9:23 AM on May 20, 2008

The five S's (suck, swaddle, shush, swing, side) worked well for our twins when they were young.
posted by jaimev at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2008

Swaddle. Swaddle. Swaddle. Get "Happiest Baby on the Block" or borrow it, and/or the DVD and follow the instructions.
And when he/she is inconsolable, I find taking them outside really works well.
Decide on a cute something to put them in/on/under and take a picture every month from the day they come home to their 2nd or 3rd birthday. It's really fun to see how fast they grow. Lots of people do the same thing with their pregnant bellies.
Use parenthacks, it has saved us SO much gnashing of teeth and arguing and irritation.
posted by pomegranate at 9:30 AM on May 20, 2008

Just a few things from a father of four:

1. windup chair
2. a great book on infant sleep
3. something for mom.
4. pre-determine who gets up with the kid and when.
5. something else for mom.
posted by mecran01 at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Apparently, some infants can be soothed by being "Rick Rolled." Congrats on your transition to a family!
posted by DB Cooper at 9:35 AM on May 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

We got some of these noise CD's and they were very helpful; also felt the advice in The Happiest Baby on the Block was good.
posted by TedW at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2008

Ditto what pomegranate said about Happiest Baby (warning, that page loads QT video). Do what that man says and your baby will stop crying.

Buy your baby clothes and gear at consignment stores, or, if your area has them, periodic mass consignment sales. You'll find great stuff, some of it never worn or barely used, for cheap.

Boppies are good for breastfeeding and snuggling, but My Brest Friend is way better and normally preferred by lactation consultants.

I know you're probably drowning in book recommendations, but we found The Baby Whisperer's stuff to be indispensable. In particular, we believe her late night "dream feed" got our little one sleeping through the night much sooner.

Those packs of little plastic rings you see for hooking baby toys to things? You know how you look at those things and think "WTF do I need all those for"? You need them, or will in a few months after the kid's born. Get a couple of packs.

Amazon has a subscription service for buying diapers (and lots of other stuff) in bulk. Godsend service. Usually discounted stuff, and free shipping.

Don't have a Netflix account? Get one. It'll help get you through the first couple of months. I'd recommend finding a good TV series DVD collection to follow.

Dr. Brown's bottles are kind of a pain to clean, but they work well, and they just came out with a BPA-free plastic version, I believe (they also have glass, but our experience with glass bottles has not been good -- one exploded in the bottle warmer and another cracked in the dishwasher).

Also, be prepared for the fact that you're going to lose it. This little innocent angel will, through no fault of its own, drive you to depths of frustration and anger you might not know you possess. There's a reason they show the shaken baby video to everyone. Be prepared to learn how to channel and control it, be prepared to forgive yourself for getting so angry. Also, there's nothing wrong with dropping the kid in the crib where he/she will be safe and stepping outside for five or ten minutes, if that's what it takes for you to decompress.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:54 AM on May 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I am also looking for non-crying related hacks.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:54 AM on May 20, 2008

I can't tell you how many times I've recommended the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD. Also, a big exercise ball works wonders for soothing a baby. You can sit on it and bounce rhythmically while holding your infant.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:59 AM on May 20, 2008

If you don't already have one, buy a digital camera. And back-up your photos!
posted by ducktape at 10:08 AM on May 20, 2008

Unless you really want just a long list of parenting advice -- which you can get by typing "parenting advice" into a search engine -- it might help if you narrowed things down.

Are you planning on using cloth diapers or disposable? Breastmilk or substitute? Do you live in a large house or a small apartment? Do you have family and friends nearby? Will one of you be a full-time parent, or are you both going back to work right away? Crib or co-sleeping? Do you want to spend as little money as possible on baby gear, or do you have cash to spare?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:13 AM on May 20, 2008

As your child grows up, take videos to record their voice. Still pictures are great, but hearing a two-year-old's voice is something special.

For swaddling, I recommend the Miracle Blanket.

One "hack" I've found that by putting a sound machine (ocean waves) in the baby's room next to the crib and then leaving the baby monitor next to your bed, you also get a sound machine in your room. It's like a repeater.

Another thing: we had lots of little plastic milk storage bottles that we couldn't really use but rather than tossing them, we saved them and now we use them to carry around cheerios or snacks for when junior needs a little bite when we're out running errands.
posted by mattbucher at 10:17 AM on May 20, 2008

I am also looking for non-crying related hacks.

Hate to break this to you, but for the first 4-5 months, getting the kid not to cry are about the only hacks you can do, because frankly babies only has 3 modes: Awake, Crying, and Sleeping. There are two main schools of thought on how to deal with this, either attachment parenting or parent directed feeding. google both of those and decide what will for best for you and your situation. There are parenting method nazi's on both sides, but our 1 year old has done great on parent directed feeding.

If your wife is breastfeeding, as long as she has adequate milk supply and the baby has an adequate sucking reflex, no hacking needed. If there are issues in the this department, your local hospital should have a lactation consultant who will be infinitely more helpful than anything we can write on the interwebs.

Once you start solid foods, making your own baby foods is a bit of a hack. More time up front, but time and money savings in the long wrong. check out the book Top 100 Baby Purees for some inspiration.
posted by jrishel at 10:23 AM on May 20, 2008

For us, a hair dryer (set on low/cool!) was fantastic in the early months as both a baby soother and a tushie dryer during diaper changes.
posted by ellenaim at 10:25 AM on May 20, 2008

nthing swaddling
Also get some kind of swing. Preferably one that moves so that if they refuse to sleep in their crib as newborns to six months (like both of mine have) you can plop them in that and move it next to the couch so you can sleep too!
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 10:30 AM on May 20, 2008

Some actual hacks:

The Fisher-Price Papasan swing is a godsend, but runs on 4 D batteries. Chopping off the end of a 6V wall-wart and soldering it into the battery holder to replace the batteries may be the single best electronics project I've ever done. (I should mention that it also introduces a strangulation risk since the swing now has a cord -- but the kid is strapped into the swing and the cord is far, far out of his reach.)

Range Jr. also totally loved his Stim Mobile, but the linkage sucks -- it won't spin for more than a second. Replacing one of the chain links with a rubber band was good; replacing it with a single strand of fishing line was better. But replacing it with a servo motor driven by an Arduino microcontroller (programmed to swing the mobile back and forth every few seconds) was beautiful.
posted by range at 10:38 AM on May 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

I thought of a couple more that are more hacky-style:

Crib sheets are a PITA to change, especially at three in the morning. So go buy 3 fitted crib sheets, and three large cloth changing pads. Put a pad down on the mattress, then a sheet, then a pad, then a sheet, then a pad, then a sheet. Baby wakes up in a pool of his own pee? Yank him out, and while one changes him, the other pulls of the soaked sheet and changing pad. Huge time and frustration saver.

When you move on to solid foods, give the kid something to play with during meals, preferably a spoon. Easier in my experience to feed a baby who's not bored in the chair, and playing with a spoon teaches him how to use it.

Also, purchase recommendation: don't get those big fancy stroller/infant carseat systems. They're the Honda Goldwing of strollers, but they're huge, heavy and eat up trunk space. Get a skeleton frame stroller that holds an infant seat. Much smaller, lighter, and easier to use.

Finally, two diaper bags. One the full-size shoulder bag or back pack, the other a very small clutch-size portable thing that will only hold a couple of diapers and wipes. You don't want to lug a big bag around just for a quick trip to the liquor store...er, supermarket.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:40 AM on May 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

Links for middleclasstool's comment:

Snap N Go stroller
Small clutch diaper thingee
posted by mattbucher at 10:52 AM on May 20, 2008

I agree with the 5 S's, specifically the shushing. When our son was tiny he was a fearsome crier and sometimes the ONLY thing that would turn it around was a LOUD long white-noise shush right in his little face. It feels weird to do, because in order for it to work it must be loud, so loud and close that it feels almost violent, but it would reset his cry-o-meter when nothing else would.

Decide nighttime strategies during the day. It's impossible to make clear-headed decisions when you are woken from sleep that you desperately need.

'Real' things are more fun, or at least more intriguing, than toys. We have lots of toys but my boy would far rather play with a colander or the remote control.

Umm. A video baby monitor is worth the dough.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:53 AM on May 20, 2008

Lots of babies get their days and nights mixed up. My older daughter did. If your baby does, make the environment warmer at night than during the day -- easier to do if the baby stays home, but also do-able if you note daycare thermostat settings. It's the same principle as opening windows or running AC to help you stay awake when driving.

If diaper rash is a problem, try changing brands of diapers or switching to pull-ups. My younger daughter had terrible yeast rashes that could be treated with OTC yeast treatments but avoided altogether by putting her in pull-ups (for which I constantly had to stay on the daycare center, because they'd use her pull-ups for a toilet-training child who ran out and then put her in a diaper).

If you have a boy, open the diaper to expose his genitals to air for diaper changes, then cover quickly, as that often stimulates urination. This will keep you from having one of those adorable "my son peed in my mouth" stories, but is probably worth the tradeoff.

Don't expect routine trips to the store (or anywhere else) to be routine for a good while after the baby arrives. Whenever possible, especially early on, let one parent keep the baby while the other runs the errands. Switch out who does it, or let the primary caretaker be the errand-runner to get a little time off.

The only thing that can only be doe by moms is breast-feeding. Dads and grandparents and other trusted folks can (and should) feed, burp, bathe, clothe, soothe, play with, and generally care for the baby. Moms need rest, too, and this can easily be forgotten or left off the priorities list.

Look for clothing that's easy to take off and put on. Lots of buttons is a no-no, as is rough fabric or any clothing that's too binding (elastic can be very uncomfortable for babies). Ignore strangers who tell you your baby needs hat, booties, sweater, blanket, etc., at all times, but bear in mind that lower physical activity level does generally equate to needing a bit more clothing to stay comfortable when it's cool or cold.

posted by notashroom at 10:55 AM on May 20, 2008

When the kid is older, large cardboard boxes will provide hours of entertainment. Literally, hours. Throw in some markers or crayons and you'll get even more time out of them. My kids are 11 and 8 and still get excited about very large boxes. Forts, spaceships, houses, castles, you name it. The box becomes those things.

Before my daughter started rolling over (3 months?), she spent every sleeptime in her car seat (you know, the one that goes in and out of the car, often called the 'pumpkin seat' in these parts). She was snug and safe and it alleviated some of the reflux she was plagued with. We would take her out of the car after an outing and just plop her, seat and all, into her crib, still buckled up. It got to the point where I would just put her in there after a feeding and she'd drop off to sleep in no time. Of course, YMMV and probably will.
posted by cooker girl at 11:00 AM on May 20, 2008

Since we have triplets, we're constantly lugging a lot bottles up from the kitchen to the nursery upstairs, and vice versa. An empty cardboard six-pack holder is the best thing for carrying bottles around.

Hopefully (?) that won't be an issue for you, though.
posted by pyjammy at 11:15 AM on May 20, 2008

Best tools (well, they worked for us):

The Over-the -Shoulder Baby Holder is a life-saver. You will be able to navigate in small spaces and (if your baby is the loves to be held type) your baby will appreciate the close contact. After you get the hang of it, you will pity people who wrestle big strollers out of their vehicles. For use after baby has good head control but is usable until your child is 3 or so.

The no-battery Baby Sitter. (Portable, light, effective and especially good for bringing into the bathroom when you want to shower and not be too far from the baby.)

The Miracle Blanket or other swaddle cloth.

Nthing Harvey Karp's 5 S's.

About that crying thing? Imagine an oscilloscope line, waving quickly. Now imagine it as a red-hot wire, strung between your ears. This is your head at 3:45 a.m. when baby cries. Swaddling, slinging and swaying are your friends.

Non-crying: Sleepers/Rompers are fine for day wear. They're much more reliable at keeping feet covered than socks are (which tend to get lost and can be impossible to find in the laundry). Besides, little babies spend much of their time sleeping! The outfits are adorable, but they're a lot less practical than a one-piece zip-up.

Seconding the plastic links, which are great for hanging baby toys from various things. I nicked the mirror from my son's play gym and attached it with links to the backpack. That way, I could check on him without taking off the pack.

Dollar store drip-dry hangers are perfect for baby clothing and much less expensive than standard baby hangers.

Separate diaper bags, one for each vehicle, ready to go. There's nothing worse than being miles away from home and realizing that you forgot the bag.

A baby journal. You WILL NOT remember as much as you think you will.

If you are crafty or have crafty friend, make round magnets for the tops of baby food jars and label them "Monday morning," "Monday afternoon," "Monday evening" and so on for the week. You will not remember when you opened jars, trust me. Using the magnets clears up confusion and lets everybody know when something was opened. I have a set of my frig but can't tell you what company made them, unfortunately.

Congratulations and good luck!
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:19 AM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I used to massage my collicky baby's tummy, and by massage I mean we would basically squeeze the gas out of him. You start on one side just below the ribs and work your way back and forth (basically following the turns of the intestines). You can press pretty hard. You can feel the gas bubbles popping, which is pretty cool, plus baby stops crying, which is awesome. He also liked it when he wasn't gassy.

I got this technique from my pediatrician, so I like to believe it isn't harmful.

Aside from that, leave him/her with a babysitter as soon as you possibly can. You need to get away from that little life changer early and often to keep from going completely insane. (just as a disclaimer, I loved having little babies around, but still, they can be shall we say quite draining.)

Good news about babies-- they grow up and become amazing best friends with you. Plus, they'll do dishes and pay for their own gas (um, petrol that is!) Congratulations!
posted by nax at 11:34 AM on May 20, 2008

If you find that the sound of the hairdryer soothes your baby (it did ours) but you don't want to actually run the hairdryer all the time, record it to a CD -- we had a CD with 20 minutes of hairdryer, 20 minutes of rainstorm, 20 minutes of washing machine, and he really liked it.
posted by escabeche at 11:35 AM on May 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

Never wake a sleeping baby. Seems obvious, but you will be tempted to do it.

You can tell if a little baby has a fever by feeling the back of his neck, just under the shirt collar.

Trim a babies' nails by biting them, they are more attached to the skin than grown-up nails are so clippers can cut their little finger tips.

You only need onesies, no dresses or komonos or inchworm outfits.

Yeah Babies!
posted by shothotbot at 11:46 AM on May 20, 2008

Most babies don't cry that much at first- they sleep and sleep and sleep. You have to get up frequently, but they sleep so much that you get down time to chill. In three weeks or so you might think- hey, this is easy. Then after 6 or 8 weeks they can really bring down the house. Or not, some babies are really relaxed and only cry when hungry. You just never know.

Don't sweat it too much yet, and don't go spend $500 on a bunch of crap you will never use. Get a good solid stroller with big wheels and a car seat that snaps in and out easily. Get a comfortable rocking chair and put it in a room that can be made DARK. Get a simple voice activated baby monitor that you can plug in the wall. You might not need too much more than that for a few months other than clothes, diapers and some blankets.

We had all kinds of stuff lined up for kid #1. By the time #2 came around, almost all of it had been given away.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 12:04 PM on May 20, 2008

You and your spouse will want a baby carrier -- then you can get up and do stuff while still holding the baby. I highly recommend getting the BabyHawk MeiTai (you can design your own! oooh, pretty fabrics). We have a six month old, and this is our third try at a baby carrier, the Baby Bjorn and a fabric sling-type carrier being non-starters for both us and the kid, and I wish we'd gotten the BabyHawk when he was even younger.

Also, not so much a baby hack as a mommy hack: breastfeeding will grow her boobs, shrink her abdomen and uterus, help her drop the baby weight faster, postpone getting her period (often for as long as she's feeding), drop her chances of getting breast and uterine cancers, and may decrease her chances of getting post-partum depression. The only catch is that the first few weeks of learning how to breastfeed is actually really hard, both for her and for the baby.

Best breastfeeding hack: Side-lying breastfeeding. She gets to lay down on a bed and half-sleep while the baby gets to eat. Everybody wins! (But wait until the baby is over a month old.)

I leave you with this sage piece of advice: watch out for doorframes. I'm totally serious. You will be carrying around your baby horizontally for much of the first year; therefore, you are wider than you think. Remember this when you are walking around at 3 AM, putting Junior back to sleep.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:17 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wait, I lied, one more great product: BabyLegs. Pair with a onesie and it's about the best baby clothing ever, because it's cozy for baby and it makes diaper changing much easier for you. Also, if your baby has allergies or excema on his legs or arms, covering them with BabyLegs will prevent chafing and scratching.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:28 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Never wake a sleeping baby. Seems obvious, but you will be tempted to do it.

Wow, I was NEVER tempted to do that. Many is the time I would have gnawed off my own arm to get out of the room without waking a sleeping baby.

Here's a hack that's actually a hack. Teach your baby sign language. We did this and it was AMAZING and so gratifying, especially for Dads who tend to get impatient for the baby to start, well, interacting a little more. There's nothing like poking your head into your 9-month-old's room at 5:30 a.m. when you hear her in there babbling away, wondering why she's up so early...and she's standing at the crib making the sign for "bird." Oh, the birds woke you up! It's really very cool. There's a bunch of info out there on how to do it, but it really does work and it's worth doing.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:29 PM on May 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

Not sure if this is a hack or a lifestyle choice, but a co-sleeping bassinet means that nobody has to get out of bed in the middle of the night. Worked extremely well for both parents and all 4 kids (including twins!)
posted by grateful at 12:41 PM on May 20, 2008

Two great things from this brand new father (my son's currently 6 months old):

-For the first few months, the best way I found to calm our son to sleep was to get one of those big exercise balls, sit on it while cradling my boy, and just bounce. It was a nice little workout at times (which I needed considering the sympathy weight I put on) and the motion really helped calm him.

-My wife and all of her college friends swear by the Maya Wrap. I guess it does a great job of simulating the womb when your kid's still a newborn, and also allows enough freedom when he gets to be 5-6 months+. It has also never made my wife sore or achy.

Oh, and one more thing. Our kid loved laying down on his back across my wife's lap with his head & shoulders hanging off the lap so that he was basically upside down. It always calmed him and even put him to sleep (don't worry - I check with our pediatrician to make sure we weren't just making our kid pass out. She said not only was it fine for him, but that it was a great throwback to the womb.).
posted by Detuned Radio at 1:15 PM on May 20, 2008

Decide nighttime strategies during the day. It's impossible to make clear-headed decisions when you are woken from sleep that you desperately need.
Cannot stress that enough. Mr. Cocoa and I literally made written notes to refer to so we wouldn't strangle each other. Sometimes it wasn't enough. Also try to agree to stick to a strategy or routine for at least a few days before deciding it doesn't work. Also, start practicing your baby-crying mantra now: "In 15 minutes it will be different." Remember to repeat at least once when you look at baby all nice and snuggly and asleep.

Be prepared for your wife to not want you to touch her, anywhere, at all. Labor and the few weeks afterwards can be wholly shattering in terms of bodily changes and the need for physical space. I see the baby's due in November. Not sure where you're located but you might plan on cranking the heat the first few weeks. Nobody will be in much mood to get dressed and if Mom is breastfeeding she'll be spending a lot of time without a shirt on.

Be prepared for breast-feeding problems (if you plan to BF). I can't tell you how many stories came out of the woodwork after we confessed to friends that we were really struggling. It seemed like a huge secret no one talked about unless a friend of a friend mentioned it, etc. Taking a breast-feeding class before the baby arrives makes a big difference, but what would have been even better for us--us with babies losing weight and OMG!!! not a strong sucking reflex!!!!--would have been lining up a lactation consultant (LC) in advance and having her number on speed dial. Also knowing the place nearest to the hospital where we could rent a pump, because we went from hospital discharge to pump rental in about 2.5 seconds and it was a pain in the neck to try to figure that stuff out on the fly.

Strongly consider a midwife and/or a doula. If you're set on going the hospital route: among all my mom- and dad-friends it was unanimous that L&D nurses are pretty good but postpartum nurses suck the big one. (This is at a wide sampling of hospitals in the Boston area. YMMV.) When you tour the hospital, you're usually focused on the delivery room and the unfolding drama of birth. Don't forget that the days following birth will be with a completely different group of people.

Never wake a sleeping baby.
For the most part this is true, but it depends completely on weight gain in the first few weeks. We were blindsided by moderate weight loss the first week or two and so needed to wake the baby. Extra harrowing was that he was very hard to wake most of the time, which freaked us out to no end. Spending 15 precious minutes trying to wake a baby enough that he'll even try to eat puts you even deeper into lizard-brain mode.

Nthing the Miracle Blanket. It was the only one that worked for us.

Congrats! November babies rock!
posted by cocoagirl at 1:18 PM on May 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

A few things I found really helpful:

1. For the first few months pacing and reading aloud to my daughter really helped when she needed soothing. The speeches of Lincoln were great, but textbooks worked fine also. The point is she liked to be held and to hear my familiar voice.

2. Pretty much as soon as she could see, she loved to watch people brush their teeth. It always calmed and fascinated her.

3. I played guitar for her, which I also did while she was in utero. She responded then, and still seems to enjoy sitting with me and watching my fingers and listening to the music.
posted by vulgariandisco at 3:05 PM on May 20, 2008

A good hack for dealing with gas: Press one baby knee against his belly, hold, release; do the other knee, hold, release; then press them both. It's like a fart machine! My son was really gassy as a baby, and he would fart every single time we did this, to the point where we would show him off to friends. He's a healthy ten year old now, so I'm pretty sure it's safe.
posted by BinGregory at 7:06 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

BinGregory has a good tip there. I used to pump my baby like I was getting water from the creek, and he farted like a goddamn goose. It was simultaneously hilarious for me and a huge relief for him.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:54 PM on May 20, 2008

Here at dogsbody towers we're still in the preparatory stages too (due September). Best piece of advice I've had so far is "remember the shops will still be open after the baby's born".

Best of luck!
posted by dogsbody at 10:19 AM on May 21, 2008


Lots of good things here so far. Here are mine.

1) Everyone will tell you that you'll be more tired than you've ever been. Its completely true. You won't believe it until you're in the middle of it. Its a sleep-deprived, bone-tiredness that impairs your judgment and your ability to function. Even if your child is a good sleeper, one of you is still waking every two - four hours to feed the tiny angel. Line up some help in advance. You will have no time to do laundry, cook food, or really clean the bathroom for about the first month. Have frozen meals in the fridge that you can cook in less than three minutes. If one partner has to go back to work right away, have someone come over every day around lunch-time to a) watch baby while mom showers, and b) fix lunch, and c) do little errands and wash the dishes and such.

2) For us, a co-sleeper was a godsend. Rather than get up, turn on lights, walk to crib, turn on more lights, change baby / sit up while he nursed, I could just pull him into the bed with us and let him nurse. Often we even changed his diaper without really getting up, just by keeping everything at hand. This interrupted our sleep much less, and also meant that our son got attention as soon as he started to squeak, rather than having to cry for a couple of minutes (and get worked up and therefore need soothing) before I could wake up and get to him. Even if actual co-sleeping isn't the right choice for you, consider having the crib within four or five steps of the bed, right in the same room.

3) My son hated - HATED - the sling and every carrier I ever used with him. I could sometimes get him to spend a half-hour or so in the Bjorn, but even then he'd fuss after a little bit. this product was a huge help, because I could put him in it and he could see me and his own movement caused it to bounce, and I could get things done.

4) my personal experience (observing my own son and the other children we know) is that while swings are a good short-term solution to babies who won't settle down, it leads to the baby always wanting to move in order to go to sleep, which becomes a problem as they get bigger. However, different kids also want different things. Some kids will only respond to the swing, others could care less.

Which brings me to: 5) Babies don't need stuff. We had clothes, diapers, the co-sleeper, the car seat, the sitter (linked above), bottles, a breast pump, and ... that's pretty much it. Yes, people will give you stuff, but you don't need a wipes warmer or lots of expensive things to keep your baby happy. Just love.

And, as bonus, even though you didn't ask: Gravity works. Its much easier, quicker, and less work to give birth in a more-or-less upright position than laying on your back. One of the questions you should ask whatever birth location you choose is "how much freedom will I have to move around during labor". Ask your caregiver the same thing. Spending as much of your labor as possible upright will just make the entire thing easier. Trust me on this.
posted by anastasiav at 10:39 AM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Miracle Blanket - get a couple of them because they do get soaked with urine pretty much everytime you use them. I'm a big fan of the Moby Wrap - it was much easier on my back than the BabyBjorn. A glider rocking chair is awesome (I'd say essential) for soothing a baby back to sleep. A vibrating bouncer is great for getting a cranky baby to chill out. Personally, I thought it worked better than a swing.

For gas relief, laying my son on my lap face down with his stomach over one knee and legs hanging off and massaging his back worked great. To get him to stop fussing, I'd lie him face up on my lap, his head in my hands facing my knees, feet facing my belly and I'd move my knees back and forth from side to side very slightly.

For some reason Nick Cave's The Boatman's Call was the magic sleepy time music for us. The kid also liked Brett Sparks - something about bass voices were really soothing to him. Of course I listened to both of them a lot while I was pregnant, so it may have been that it was familar and reminded him of them womb, YMMV.
posted by echolalia67 at 2:28 AM on May 26, 2008

There's great stuff here. I'm in the thick of it, with a three month old baby, and here are a few things nobody else has mentioned.

Laundry. You will be doing a lot of it. Babies generate a lot of their own and manage to spit up all over your stuff too. My son regularly manages to spit up anywhere but the burp cloth, and some days I wind up changing shirts two or three times. I hope for your sake you have laundry machines at home. Also, stock up on extra socks and underwear for the grownups, there are times where the grownup laundry doesn't get done as routinely as it did pre-baby. Finally, get multiple identical laundry baskets for all the above-mentioned laundry- identical ones will nest in one footprint and not take up so much space. And they make great toys when baby is a little older.

Batteries. We have a bouncy seat and the same Papasan Swing range mentioned, and both take 4 D batteries. So we got 12 rechargeable D batteries and a charger. There's a set in each one and a set charging at all times. I've gotten adept at changing the batteries out of the swing before the papasan chair stops swinging. The rechargeables paid for themselves pretty quickly.

I'll chime in to add another vote for the Brest Friend, the Happiest Baby on the Block, the Moby Wrap, swaddling, (and the SwaddleMe blanket) and if you are planning on breastfeeding, setting up a session with a lactation consultant during the first week.
posted by ambrosia at 1:06 PM on May 27, 2008

I'm a little surprised no one's mentioned the Diaper Genie.

Also, I heartily recommend a membership at Costco. We've saved God knows how much money on diapers, wipes, and formula in the last six months by buying in bulk. The discounts on food and gas are just a perk on top of that.
posted by EarBucket at 6:40 AM on May 28, 2008

Every baby is different - so give yourself a break when some of these work and some don't for your own little one.

Middleclasstool's idea has been converted into a commercial product I highly recommend. Called the Ultimate Crib Sheet - I have two and it makes changes super easy, without hiding the "pretty" sheet underneath.

One of the best pieces of advice I read was the one that suggested getting extra sheets for your bed too, so you have options when the baby spits up there.

A Boppy or similar is a great idea even if you are bottle feeding - it has a million uses for propping up your baby at different stages. If you will be breastfeeding, keep in mind that for many moms its not as simple as it looks. It can take about 2 months of some combination of nursing, pumping and supplementing with formula, before the team gets good enough to go with nursing alone without discomfort.

Considering indulging in outside help for whatever household service turns out to be most trying for you. For me it was laundry - I hired someone to do it. I live in an apartment building, I'm a single mom, and I just couldn't imagine disturbing the baby's sleep to go move clothes from washer to dryer, etc. For you it might be food (try takeout) or housecleaning.

My best investment has been Amazon Prime. For $79 a year, I get "free" 2 day shipping on most items at Amazon. The doorman accepts the packages and mommy can shop at any hour she likes.

Find a local online group for support. Many are on yahoo groups. Enter your town or neighborhood name and parents. The archives are invaluable for where to hold a christening party, what restaurants are baby-friendly, where to find any kind of help, lesson or supply nearby.

If you live in an urban environment: consider a stroller with inflatable tires; its never too early to get on the waiting list for daycare; BundleMe's come in two sizes and two weights - you will likely need all of them eventually.

Ok - thats all for now.
posted by AuntLisa at 12:11 PM on June 10, 2008

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